Ocean View votes down proposed sidewalk trust fund

The Ocean View Town Council this week voted not to create a sidewalk-maintenance trust fund, on a split 3-2 vote, with concerns expressed about which sidewalks would and would not be covered by the maintenance fund.

“This does not refer to any existing sidewalks,” explained Town Manager Conway Gregory on Aug. 9, during a hearing for the second reading of the proposed ordinance.

Town Councilman Tom Sheeran voiced his concern that residents who already have sidewalks would feel like they would be paying for other peoples’ sidewalks without getting any benefits for their own.

“These trust funds are looking with an eye to the future,” responded Gregory. “If we’re going to have sidewalks, then this trust fund is absolutely necessary for the financial wellbeing of this town. Now is the time to be saving the money.”

Resident George Pickrell pointed out that many developments’ homeowners associations have reserve funding set aside for sidewalks within their communities, and Public Works Director Charlie McMullen reminded council that all sidewalks erected in the town would be covered under the proposed ordinance, including the sidewalks to be added during the Route 26 widening project and those put in by subdivisions, if and when it passed.

Town Solicitor Dennis Schrader suggested that the Town do an inventory of all sidewalks within the town, both those owned and those not owned by the Town, and the estimated repair costs of all those that would exist the day the ordinance would be approved.

“Maybe that information would be helpful on making a decision on a potential trust fund in the future,” Schrader said.

Resident Steve Cobb said he believed the ordinance should be voted down.

“Let’s do some more work on this,” he suggested.

As proposed, the fund would have comprised an initial $10,000, coming from impact fees, with an added 25 percent of eligible transfer taxes. Any interest accumulated would go directly back into the fund.

By the 2017 fiscal year, the funds would have become available, following an assessment or study of the sidewalks to determine if any maintenance, repair or replacement was necessary. Such a study was to be conducted every five years from that point on and repairs would only have been administered if the estimated cost would exceed $10,000.

Mayor Gordon Wood and Councilman Bob Lawless voted in favor of the ordinance, with the other three members of the council voting successfully in opposition.

On Aug. 9, the council held a first reading of an ordinance prohibiting people from sleeping outdoors or in a motor-vehicle in a public or semi-public place.

“Over the last few summers, we’ve experienced people living out of their vehicles within the town limits of Ocean View,” explained Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “This is not to trap the mom or dad taking a little cat nap. The ordinance is to discourage the people sleeping overnight.”

Councilman Geoff Christ said he was “behind the spirit” of the ordinance but was concerned with how it could affect residents.

“My boys and I camp out in our front yard,” he said, questioning whether or not they would be subject to a fine.

Schrader said the proposed ordinance could be revised to exclude those persons sleeping outside on their own property.

Lawless said he agreed with Christ’s concerns, noting that people take naps in development pools, and perhaps even in council meetings.

“I’m just concerned this is extremely broad,” he said.

“We’re really relying upon the police department to exercise good judgment and discretion when enforcing the ordinance. … The enforcement of the ordinance is really addressing issues similar to, if not quite, vagrancy,” responded Schrader.

A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for the September council meeting.

Town’s 2011 audit reviewed

The town council on Aug. 9 was also presented with an independent report on the yearly audit, conducted by Jefferson, Urian, Doane & Sterner PA. Auditor Jean Schmidt reviewed the report with council, bringing attention to several points of interest from the 2011 fiscal year.

• The Town’s Public Works Department was approximately $106,000 under budget.

• The Public Safety Department was approximately $1,400 under budget.

• Capital expenditures for the town were under budget by approximately $84,000.

• The town’s water system funding increased by $11,280, which Schmidt said was mostly attributed to grant funds left over from the original funds granted to the town to build the water system.

• The town in total had a bottom-line net income of $694,418 for the year.

“This report is encouraging,” stated Wood.

In other news from the Aug. 9 meeting:

• The Town received one bid for the 2012 General Reassessment Project.

“Every five years we are required by our charter to reassess our properties and readjust property values at that time to determine fair market value,” said Gregory, adding that the town is a year behind schedule on that assessment.

The town budgeted $120,000 for the project, which was bid at $70,000. Gregory added that the winning bidder, Property Tax Associates, has done the work for the town the last five years.

Council unanimously voted to accept the bid.

•The Ocean View Historical Society requested to be put on the Sept. 13 town council meeting to discuss their request to move the town’s old post office onto town property.